Antananarivo, known as Tana, is the capital of Madagascar. The city has a European feel to it, with French widely spoken and many road and shop signs in French. With a population of about 1.25 million inhabitants, it is also the largest city in the country. It is here that most international flights arrive and depart, and as such you will no doubt spend some time here. The capital has a subtropical highland climate characterised by warm, rainy summers and mild, dry winters. The city gets nearly all of its average annual rainfall between the months of November and April. Although frosts are rare in the city, they are more common at higher elevations. The daily mean temperatures can range from 20.8 °C in December to 14.3 °C in July.
Antananarivo has expanded progressively from the royal palaces at its centre, that dominate the skyline from their location at the peak of a curved ridge 200 metres above the neighbouring Betsimitatatra plains. During the 17th century, the plains were converted into paddy fields to meet the population's need for rice. Subsequently in the 20th century the fields were covered with housing developments as the city's population exploded. The palaces were destroyed in a fire in 1995 but have since been partially restored. In the surrounding area lies the historic district that was formerly home to members of the andriana – the noble class and many of their homes are still preserved.
The Analakely valley is found at the base of the ridge and was formerly the site of a Friday market that was established in the 18th century. Until it was discontinued in 1997 due to the traffic congestion, it was considered the largest open air market in the world. Limited funds and mismanagement have hindered consecutive government efforts to manage overcrowding and traffic, as well as waste management, security, pollution, public water and electricity, and other challenges linked to rapid population growth. Despite these impediments, the capital has a lot to offer including major historic landmarks and attractions.
The royal village (rova) with the reconstructed royal palaces and the Andafiavaratra Palace are must see attractions. Other places of interest include: the tomb of Rainiharo; four 19th century martyr cathedrals; the Museum of Art and Archaeology; the Mahamasina Stadium; Lake Anosy; the infamous markets known as zoma; and Tsimbazaza Zoo, filled with unique Malagasy flora and fauna. Antananarivo also has good transport links to other locations around the country, and is a good base to explore Central Madagascar from.